Fat Good For Breasts

There’s no denying the importance of women’s breast health.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian women. According to Canada.ca, an estimated 23,200 women will receive a breast cancer diagnosis in 2010 and 5,300 will die of it. One in nine women is expected to develop breast cancer during her lifetime and one in 28 will die of it.

But women who are avoiding fats may unnecessarily be putting themselves at risk of contracting breast cancer. Two recent headlines detail the importance of getting certain fats to lower risk of contracting the disease: “Olive oil protects against breast cancer by launching multiple attacks against tumors” and “Fish Oil Lowers Breast Cancer Risk“.

In the first study, researchers at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona in Spain found that olive oil protected the DNA of rats from the type of damage that typically leads to cancer. Published in the journal Carcinogenesis, the study found the oil attacks the tumors in multiple ways, affecting their growth and driving the tumor cells to self-destruct. Olive oil actually stops the gene that drives the growth of breast tumors and switches off proteins that cancer cells rely on to stay alive. On top of this, it also have a protective effect on DNA, lessening the threat of damage that can lead to cancer.

In the second study, fish oil was found to have a protective effect against developing breast cancer in the first place.

Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle found that women who regularly supplemented fish oil lower their risk of breast cancer by 32 per cent.

The study followed 35,016 post-menopausal women with no history of breast cancer, between the ages of 50 and 76. After six years on average, researchers found women regularly supplementing fish oil had a 32 per cent lesser likelihood of developing a type of breast cancer called “invasive ductal breast cancer,” compared to women who did not supplement.

Invasive ductal breast cancer is the most common type of breast cancer where tumors form in the milk ducts of the breast.

The researchers also looked for a correlation between supplementing black cohosh, dong quai, soy, and St. John’s wort, but found the supplements had no effect on risk of breast cancer.

Since there is some evidence that inflammation has a causative effect in cancer, researchers speculated that the positive effect of the fish oil may be due to the anti-inflammatory nature of omega-3 fats. The omega-3 fats EPA and DHA are the predominant fats found in fish oil and have a potent anti-inflammatory effect on the body. Because the typical North American diet is very low in these essential fats, and very high pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats, this could help explain why fish oil had a positive effect.

The lesson here is eat your fat, ladies! It’s definitely beneficial to your health. Considering the fact that breasts are fatty tissue, doesn’t it make sense that fat would be good for them?

The Healthy Foodie is Doug DiPasquale